Zoonotic diseases are frequent occurring diseases that can pass from animals to humans. A zoonotic disease can be caused by parasites, bacteria, viruses, or fungi. In fact, it is estimated to be the cause of 6 out of every 10 new infectious cases in the human population. Public health organizations and respective governments throughout the world are constantly monitoring zoonotic diseases as an uncontrolled spread of such diseases can bring an unprepared nation or even a whole region to its knees, such as the case of Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. As the temperature rises across the globe, area where certain diseases are not endemic previously may become increasing so as disease-carrying bugs and animals are able to expand outwards to colder climate areas.
The zoonotic disease can be transmitted to a human in a variety of ways through various channels of transmission. It is crucial to take notes of the variety of ways a person can be infected by a zoonotic disease. A person who has close contact with an animal such as animal farm workers, veterinarian staff, pet owner, animal lover and pet grooming personnel can be infected with an animal-borne disease through contact with the blood, urine, saliva, or feces of an infected animal. Outdoor activities or clearing bush and woodlands can cause exposure to mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects bites. Consuming under-cooked meat, contaminated food and drink also can lead to a zoonotic infection. In the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the tribal custom of washing corpse by a few relatives before burial was believed to be a major factor in the speed of outbreak.
Here’s a list of some of the most common zoonotic diseases that are found in north America:
- Lyme disease from a prolongs tick bite
- Cat-scratch fever from cat scratches or bites
- West Nile virus from a mosquito bite
- Malaria, Zika, dengue, and chikungunya from an infected mosquito bite at endemic area
- E. coli infection from contaminated milk, dairy farm animals handling
- Salmonella infection from handling a poultry or an amphibian, or consuming contaminated food
Fortunately, most people with a healthy immune system can withstand these diseases with appropriate medication and care. However, it is advisable to constantly on guard by practicing the following:
- Always wash hands with running water and soap after handling animals and before eating
- Understand the risk associated with your pet, and how to properly care and handle your pet
- Avoid touching your face or rub your eyes with hands
- Always wash food, including fruits and vegetables before consumption
- Cook all meat to the recommended temperature
- Wash table top, cutting board and utensil probably after preparing any meat
- Avoid insect bites by wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long pant. Use insect repellents as needed
- When traveling, be aware of endemic diseases in visiting area and take appropriate caution.
Young children under the age of five, adults above the age of 65, and individual with severely compromised immune system such as HIV and cancer patients are more susceptible to zoonotic diseases. Appropriate precautions are always recommended.